Special Exhibition Kannon Worship: The Thirty-three Pilgrimage Sites of Western Japan

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Special Exhibition Kannon Worship: The Thirty-three Pilgrimage Sites of Western Japan
July 23–September 13, 2020
9:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m. (Entrance until 5:30 p.m.)

Mondays except August 10 (national holidays), 2020

Adult 1,600 yen (1,400 yen)
Univ. Student 1,200 yen (1,000 yen)
High School Student 700 yen (500 yen)
Fees in parentheses are for groups of 20+
Admission is free for middle school students and other youths age 0–15, visitors with disabilities and one caretaker. Please show I.D.


Kyoto National Museum
Access: 527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0931, Japan 


The Thirty-three Pilgrimage Sites of Western Japan (J., Saikoku sanju-sansho) was purportedly established by Priest Tokudō (dates unknown), the founder of Hase-dera Temple in Nara, in 718. According to legend, Priest Tokudō received an oracle from the King of Hell, Enma, “Many have been sent to hell because of their evil deeds in previous lives. Please teach people that they can acquire merit by visiting the sacred sites of Kannon (Skt., Avalokiteśvara) and the compassionate mind of this bodhisattva.” He was then bestowed a written pledge and thirty-three seals in the shape of a wish-fulfilling jewel, which were passes to birth into Buddhist paradise. The thirty-three temples that Priest Tokudō distributed these seals became part of the belief in sacred Kannon sites and Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route, in which talismans were distributed.

The overall distance of this route extends approximately 1000 kilometers, encompassing the Kinki region from Wakayama, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, and Gifu prefectures. The concentration of a third of these pilgrimage sites in Kyoto, the longstanding capital of Japan and center of culture, led to the spread of belief in Kannon and the culture of pilgrimages throughout Japan.

On the occasion of 1300 years since the founding of the Thirty-three Pilgrimage Sites of Western Japan, this exhibition celebrates this pilgrimage in Kyoto, which has deep ties to this practice. Introduced here through stunning images of the bodhisattva Kannon and treasures from these sites is the allure of this pilgrimage, which attracts people even today, regardless of age, gender or nationality. On exhibit are numerous objects that have been preserved and passed down together with belief in Kannon.

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